A Christmas Meditation (Judges 13:2-24; John 7:40-52)

As a child, I was taught that Christmas was not about receiving gifts, but about giving them. Nonetheless, I still remember waking up every Christmas morning and running to my living room to open the gifts that I was privileged enough to have waiting for me under the Christmas tree. My mother always wrapped the presents weeks in advance, which meant that my impatient young mind had already singled out the largest gifts that I would inevitably tear into first. However, as I would reach for the biggest boxes or bags, my mother would often caution me using familiar phrases like, “Bigger isn’t always better!” or “Good things come in small packages!” While these phrases are often disregarded as cliches, they helped me to understand the importance of making informed judgements as a child. Even as I have grown older, I am constantly reminded of this simple lesson and the importance it has on daily interactions with other people.

Simply put, when I read these two passages of scripture, I see several humans that make significant judgements, some correct and some incorrect. In Judges 13, Manoah and his wife mistakenly take their mysterious visitor for something of a prophet rather than the angel of the Lord. Even after Manoah asks God to send the visitor again, he understands nothing more about the angel and even tries to provide food and obtain the angel’s name. It is not until Manoah sees the angel of the Lord ascend into the air that he realizes his mistake. Understandably, Manoah’s response is one of fear, but his much more level-headed wife assures him that God has blessed them.

Much in the same way, Jesus is misidentified in John 7. The interpretations of some in the crowd fail to see that Jesus is the Messiah. These interpretations drive individuals like the Pharisees to seek Jesus’ downfall. However, the temple police are so surprised by Jesus’ words, that they do not arrest him, and Nicodemus, seeing past the Pharisees’ motives, even defends Jesus. Unfortunately, as is often the case today, the Pharisees simply mock those who do not agree with their judgements of Jesus.

I would be lying if I said that I still don’t enjoy opening up gifts or even trying to guess what is inside of them while they are still wrapped. However, I have grown to realize that more precious than any possession is the joy of being able to accurately identify the identity of Christ as well as my own identity in Christ. People, like presents, were never meant to be judged based on their outward appearance. It is what comes out of a person that determines who they are. We see this through Jesus, who entered the world as a lowly child, but did what no human would ever be able to do by saving humanity. Though some have misjudged Christ and continue to misjudge His followers, we have the greatest gift of knowing Christ’s true identity and sharing it with others.

As we give and receive gifts this Christmas season, may we also strive to prioritize the gifts of patience, understanding, perspective, and love and the call they place upon our lives to live according to the Spirit. May we cast our fears and prejudices aside in exchange for seeing the world through the eyes of the One in whose image we are made. Amen.

In truth and love,

Matt Waller